Exercising Your Pet in Winter



November 17, 2021

The dog days of summer are a distant memory, Bivvy pet parents, and temperatures are starting to drop. But your pets’ exercise needs aren’t! Whether your surroundings are just a little too cold for comfort, or you live in the land of polar vortexes and blizzards, any pet that relies on walks or other outdoor playtime in the warmer months has the same needs in the colder months, to stave off obesity, boredom, and behavioral problems. Here are some ideas for when you’re not sure you’re up to taking your pup walking in a winter wonderland!

If You Do Venture Out…

If temperatures aren’t dangerously low, getting your dog his usual outdoor exercise is best. Herding, sporting, and working breeds usually love the snow and can withstand it better than others. But if the temperature is below freezing, don’t stay out with your dog for longer than 15 minutes. And keep an eye out for signs of hypothermia and frostbite, including shivering, lethargy, disorientation, whining, and signs of general distress. There is such a thing as too cold though. If the temps are really unbearable for you, it’s a good sign the conditions probably aren’t great for your pet. If you’re out, watch for shaking, cowering, and lots of lifting of their feet.

Keep an eye especially on small breeds, breeds with short coats (think Greyhounds, Dobermans, and Chihuahuas), elderly dogs, young dogs, and those with arthritis. Worst case scenario, if it’s too cold for these outside, they can do their business on indoor training pads. And for dogs with short coats, see if they’ll tolerate a coat or any other safe bundling up.

Michigan veterinarian Dr. Michele Schalow recommends really limiting a pet’s time outside below freezing—just enough to use the bathroom and exercise a little. And if your dog walks on salted pavement, wash her feet when you get back inside, as it can both irritate her foot pads and be harmful to her digestive system if licked off.

And speaking of foot protection, you could also invest in some booties! These will protect your dog’s feet. Just try to get her used to them at home before venturing out.

If You Don’t Venture Out…

If your pet is less active during the winter months, cut back on their food to avoid weight gain. But there are makeshift ways to get your dog’s steps in inside in the winter if you’ve decided outside exercise isn’t in the cards.

At home, you can try having your dog run up and down the stairs, either by running alongside them or tossing a toy for them to fetch. Or try fetch or tug-of-war in a long, cleared out hallway. If you don’t have a specific tug-of-war rope or other toy, don’t fear! You can make your own by taking a towel and tying a knot at each end. Or try a game of hide and seek with a trail of treats leading to you. Dog treadmills are also a thing! And you can teach them tricks, like come, sit, and roll over. Not only are these good mental exercise, but they can be physical too.

Outside the home, for a splurge, check out pet spas in your area, indoor heated dog pools, or doggy exercise or yoga classes. Zoom Room is a business popping up in some parts of the country, where you can pay by the hour for your dog to run around an indoor agility course. Or for not so much of a splurge, you can make your own agility course at home. Or invite your dog’s BFF over for a play date! Let them chase each other around inside and wrestle to tucker each other out.

If you and your pet run into any wintry weather mishaps, pet insurance is a great thing to have on hand. But just how much is pet insurance? Less than a dollar a day with Bivvy! With Bivvy, you have the power to choose your vet—you don’t have to have an insurance card or even discuss your insurance with them. Just go to the one you’re comfortable with or that fits the situation, and get great care. At Bivvy, we don’t raise rates due to your pet’s age or claims history. Our pet insurance cost gets you fast coverage—to file a claim, simply log into your pet parent account and upload your bill. It’ll be reviewed in a few days, and reimbursements are sent out fast.

Plug in your pet’s info here to see the coverage available to you! And cheers to you and your pet meeting your fitness goals this winter!